Why does it take so long?

I’m not sure why it takes so long for some of us to realize there is nothing to attain.  We already have Buddha-nature within us.  We already have the mind-essence and we can experience it if we just stop grasping for what we think we need.  I keep seeking.  I keep reading and looking for wisdom in other peoples writings.  I’ve reached a point now that when I read a little something inside of me says why are you reading this?  I already know everything that I need to know.  The Dharmakaya Buddha, the Nirmanakaya Buddha, the Sambhogakaya Buddha are already within me.  Then I experience reality, something that cannot be put into words.  It’s then that I realize that knowing there is nothing to attain is the attainment.  Loving Kindness to ALL.

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Three Dharma Seals

The three Dharma Seals are Impermanence, Non-self, and Nirvana according to some. Others replace Non-self with Suffering. According to the teachings anything that does not have these three seals is not a true teaching. All of us are familiar with the impermanence of plants and sentient beings but many people think of it in a negative way. They only think of things passing away and no longer being available. Because of impermanence a seed is able to become a beautiful flower or tree. A young girl is able to become a scholar or a nun who understands skillful means. She may write things and give Dharma talks that help people overcome vexations and become liberated from suffering. I think what is most important for us who are practicing Buddhism is just to accept the reality that in this material world things arise and pass away. This includes our physical bodies. If we learn to contemplate this truth we can be OK with it. We do not need to suffer. We can learn to appreciate life in each moment. We can be grateful that we have found the teachings and understand that suffering is caused by greed, hatred and ignorance. Through our practice we can transform our minds and cultivate wisdom and compassion. We can understand impermanence without labeling it good or bad.

The second Dharma seal is non-self.  All things in this world of phenomena lack an independent self.  All things exist because of other things.  As many teachers say: “This is because that is.  This ceases to be because that ceases to be.”  Theistic religions teach the existence of an eternal soul that continues forever.  Buddhism denies the existence of a soul.  The soul is believed to be a concept of the mind.  Ego which craves eternal existence clings to this concept.  But ego is part of the five skandhas and has no permanent existence.  It is an illusion.

Nirvana is the third Dharma seal.  It means the extinction of concepts.  It also means the extinction of all suffering.  Nirvana is a state of perfect tranquility.  The Platform Sutra tells us that our ordinary mind becomes attached to external things and this causes us to become confused internally.  If we are able to let go of our attachments we are able to experience our true mind, our Buddha-nature.  We can be free from suffering and experience peacefulness and tranquility in each momnet.

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New Translation of the Heart Sutra.

I like to read different translations of Mahayana Sutras as the different translations speak to us a little differently.  Sometimes in reading one translation I will understand things that were elusive to me before.  Here is a new translation of the Heart Sutra by Thich Nhat Hanh published on the Plum Village site.  Hope it is helpful to you.

The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore

Avalokiteshvara
while practicing deeply with
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,
suddenly discovered that
all of the five Skandhas are equally empty,
and with this realisation
he overcame all Ill-being.

“Listen Sariputra,
this Body itself is Emptiness
and Emptiness itself is this Body.
This Body is not other than Emptiness
and Emptiness is not other than this Body.
The same is true of Feelings,
Perceptions, Mental Formations,
and Consciousness.

“Listen Sariputra,
all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness;
their true nature is the nature of
no Birth no Death,
no Being no Non-being,
no Defilement no Purity,
no Increasing no Decreasing.

“That is why in Emptiness,
Body, Feelings, Perceptions,
Mental Formations and Consciousness
are not separate self entities.

The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena
which are the six Sense Organs,
the six Sense Objects,
and the six Consciousnesses
are also not separate self entities.

The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising
and their Extinction
are also not separate self entities.
Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being,
the End of Ill-being, the Path,
insight and attainment,
are also not separate self entities.

Whoever can see this
no longer needs anything to attain.

Bodhisattvas who practice
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
see no more obstacles in their mind,
and because there
are no more obstacles in their mind,
they can overcome all fear,
destroy all wrong perceptions
and realize Perfect Nirvana.

“All Buddhas in the past, present and future
by practicing
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
are all capable of attaining
Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment.

“Therefore Sariputra,
it should be known that
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
is a Great Mantra,
the most illuminating mantra,
the highest mantra,
a mantra beyond compare,
the True Wisdom that has the power
to put an end to all kinds of suffering.
Therefore let us proclaim
a mantra to praise
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore.

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!”

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Just follow your method

Chan Buddhism evolved through many teachings and many schools. It is what the Lotus sutra calls One Vehicle Buddhism and includes everything; all the teachings of all schools of Buddhism. One Vehicle tells us that different teachings were give because that is what people were ready for at the time. Now we understand that all the concepts are thoughts in our mind and are empty. So we meditate and practice to contact the absolute. No need for thoughts here. There is just the illumination experienced through our awareness; Awareness without thoughts. Don’t get entangled in your thoughts and ideas. Just become aware. Chan is about practice, meditation, awareness. Once you experience the bliss of the reward body you will never turn back. Loving Kindness to ALL.

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Suffering – Dukkha

The Buddha taught that we live in a world of suffering.  Although dukkha has a much broader meaning than suffering:  Imperfection, impermanence, emptiness, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality all can be thought of as dukkha.  The Buddha said whatever is impermanent is dukkha.  All things on this material plane are impermanent.  One of the sutras also teaches that the skandhas (form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, consciousness) themselves are dukkha.

If we study the twelve link chain of dependent origination we see that the six faculties (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind) condition contact; Contact conditions feelings; feelings condition desire or craving; craving conditions grasping and so on.  Craving and grasping have always been a source of suffering for me.  I think it’s important to contemplate these teachings to really understand what liberation means.  When we meditate and are able to see through this chain of conditioned habits they lose there power over us.  We are able to live without attachment to whatever it is that we once thought would bring us happiness.  When we understand that all twelve links of the wheel of dependent origination are connected and really are all one then we can understand life at a higher level.  Understanding life through Zen practice is not an intellectual process.  We have to transcend logic even thought we use logic and concepts in the beginning to point us in the right direction.  Some people disregard the basic teachings of early Buddhism and just practice meditation but I think it’s very helpful to study and understand the early teachings.  Otherwise when you read the sutras that have been important to Zen you do not know what they are referring too.  In the Heart Sutra, probably the most popular of Mahayana sutras, we read:

“Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no memory and no consciousness”

Pine, Red (2005-08-10). The Heart Sutra (p. 2). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.

There are also reference to the six faculties and the twelve link chain.  Obviously the author understood these early teachings and expected his readers to be familiar with them.

In practice it’s important to understand our suffering; it’s origin or roots; and the way to liberation.

Best wishes and Loving kindness to all.

 

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HsinHsinMing

The Great Way is not difficult for those not attached to preferences. When neither love nor hate arises,  all is clear and undisguised.

If you wish to know the truth, then hold to no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.

Seng-ts’an; Clark, Richard B. (2014-01-16). Hsin-Hsin Ming (Kindle Locations 39-40). White Pine Press. Kindle Edition..

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The simplicity of Chan

Chan is a very simple practice compared to other schools of Buddhism. It emphasis practice as opposed to study.  No need to learn complicated systems.  Master Hui-neng said if we are not attached to external things then we can have a mind that is not confused internally. This is Zen Meditation. When we first set out on this Chan path seated meditation is the best way to drop our attachment to external things. We can begin by following our breath and progress to the Huatou method or the method of silent illumination. (Shikantaza or Just Sitting in the Japanese Zen tradition).  I find this simple method of Just Sitting to be most helpful for me. If I try to learn too many concepts and ideas my mind becomes cloudy and agitated. So try the simple path of Chan. The Platform Sutra of Hui-neng is a good guide.

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